Durham University: Developing new gene variants to breed climate resilient chickpeas

Scientists from our top-rated Biosciences Department working with colleagues from Harran University in Turkey and University of California Davis in the USA, have discovered that flowering time in chickpeas and its wild relatives are influenced by one to three major genes.

Their pioneering research is providing new insights to improve chickpea breeding efforts and has already generated locally adapted varieties to support agricultural output in Turkey and Syria.

Cultivating genetically diverse chickpea
Chickpea is one of the earliest domesticated plants from the Middle East and now one of the most important food legume crops in the world.

The researchers created ten genetically diverse families of chickpea, from wild samples which they collected from different locations across its native range in southern Turkey.

They cultivated the chickpea hybrids in the field at Harran University farm and measured several performance related traits.

They also analysed multiple genetic markers of the chickpea genome with a focus on flowering time variation as early flowering varieties can produce seeds before suffering late summer drought and high temperature in Turkey.

Endless possibilities
The findings of this pioneering study open up the door for further exploration of the genetic variation for flowering time that is available in wild chickpea populations.

It also enables the development of genetic markers that can be used to make future chickpea breeding efforts faster and more precise.

This important research facilitates addressing important global challenges related to food security and climate change, especially in Syria and the surrounding region.

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